Karamu Ready for Act Two
by David C. Barnett
The IRS has restored the tax-exempt status of Cleveland's Karamu House. Leadership at the nationally-renowned African-American theater and arts education center... is now looking to change the script of what was a shaky centennial year.
Karamu was in the midst of a celebratory 100th birthday season when it suffered a one-two financial punch, this past Spring. The theater company laid off more than half its staff and shut down a daycare operation in March, as part of a plan to balance the books. Then came the news in April that the IRS had revoked Karamu's tax-exempt status due to a failure to file a tax return, several years in a row.
CEO Tony Sias says Karamu had to essentially re-apply for non-profit status, which meant filing paperwork that would satisfy both the feds and the state. That includes such things as "...the financials related to the organization, to demonstrate that our articles of incorporation align to IRS standards. And to insure that all other kinds of paperwork aligned to the Secretary of State are up to date. Things of that nature."
Sias says Karamu received a letter from the IRS, this past Thursday, re-establishing its tax exemption --- opening the the doors to support from foundations and corporations. Helping to mind the books from now on is Linda Kane, former Treasurer of Forest City Enterprises, who comes on-board as an interim Chief Financial Officer. In August, a state-funded, 1.8-million-dollar capital improvement project gets underway to upgrade Karamu's Jeliffe mainstage, adding new seats, lighting, and a long-needed roof replacement.